Ukraine claims drone strike on Russian tanker near Crimea

Ukraine has claimed responsibility for a drone strike on a Russian tanker near Crimea, as tensions escalate in the region. The attack, which occurred late on Friday night, damaged the vessel and briefly halted traffic on the strategic bridge linking Crimea to Russia’s mainland. The UK Ministry of Defence said the strike was a “significant blow” to Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which has been involved in the invasion of Ukraine since 2022.

Russian tanker near Crimea

Ukrainian drones target Russian oil tanker

According to a source in the Ukrainian security service, the attack was carried out jointly with the Navy on Ukrainian territorial waters. The target was the SIG, a large oil tanker of the Russian Federation that was transporting fuel for Russian troops. The SIG is under US sanctions for supplying jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria supporting president Bashar al-Assad.

The source said the “successful special operation” involved a naval drone and explosives. “It was well-loaded with fuel, so the ‘fireworks’ could be seen from afar,” the source told AFP. Russian authorities said the SIG suffered a hole at the waterline in the area of the engine room, “presumably as a result of an attack by a marine drone”. The tanker is still afloat and surrounded by an oil boom.

The attack took place just south of the Kerch Strait, where a bridge connects Crimea to Russia’s mainland. The bridge was built by Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, in a move that was widely condemned by the international community. The bridge has been a frequent target of Ukrainian sabotage attempts, as it is seen as a symbol of Russia’s occupation of the peninsula.

UK reports ‘significant blow’ to Russia’s Black Sea fleet

The UK Ministry of Defence said the drone strike on the Russian tanker was a “significant blow” to Moscow’s Black Sea fleet, which has been supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine. The MoD said in its daily intelligence update that the strike “demonstrates Ukraine’s growing capability and resolve to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The MoD also said that the blast led to the loss of eight Russian combat jets, which were parked near the tanker. “This is a major setback for Russia’s air power in the region, which has been used to conduct airstrikes and reconnaissance missions against Ukrainian forces and civilians,” the MoD said.

The MoD added that it was closely monitoring the situation and providing support to Ukraine through diplomatic and military channels. The UK has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies since Russia invaded its eastern regions in 2022, sparking Europe’s worst conflict since World War II. The UK has provided Ukraine with military equipment, training, intelligence and humanitarian aid.

Battle for Bakhmut ‘extremely fierce’

The drone strike on the Russian tanker came amid intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine, where a fragile ceasefire has collapsed. The most active front line is near Bakhmut, a strategic town that controls access to Donetsk, the largest city held by the separatists.

According to Ukrainian officials, the battle for Bakhmut is “extremely fierce” and has resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Ukraine claims to have killed more than 200 enemy fighters and destroyed dozens of tanks and artillery pieces in recent days. However, Russia denies any involvement in the fighting and accuses Ukraine of violating the ceasefire and provoking a humanitarian crisis.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has vowed to liberate Bakhmut and other occupied territories from Russian aggression. He has also appealed for more international support and sanctions against Russia. Zelensky said he hoped to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, later this month in Turkey, where they are expected to discuss ways to end the war.

Talks on ending war will be ‘difficult’ – Ukraine envoy

Meanwhile, senior officials from some 40 countries gathered in Saudi Arabia on Friday for talks on how to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. The meeting, hosted by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, was attended by representatives from NATO, the European Union, the United States and other regional powers. However, Russia was not invited to participate.

The talks aimed to agree on key principles on how to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, such as restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, ensuring security and stability in the region, and facilitating humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. The talks also sought to prepare for a possible summit of the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, known as the Normandy format, which has been stalled since 2022.

However, Ukraine’s envoy to the talks, Oleksiy Danilov, said he expected the negotiations to be “difficult” and warned that there was no guarantee of success. He said that Russia had shown no willingness to comply with previous agreements or respect international law. He also said that Ukraine would not accept any compromises that would undermine its national interests or sovereignty.

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